Sri Lanka at war

India Sends Medical Aid to Sri Lankan Soldiers at War (even as Tamil civilians go without medicine)

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, June 2009 (ID. 2009-06-02)
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OUTLINE

1. Injured Tamil Civilians Suffer without Drugs

2. India Sends Medicine to Sri Lankan Soldiers Surreptitiously,

3. Are Indian Rulers Deaf to Tamil Sufferings?


1. Injured Tamil Civilians Suffer without Drugs

War is raging in Sri Lanka between the army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the minority Tamil fighters. Thousands of minority Tamil civilians are killed and many more injured in Sri Lankan army shelling and Sri Lankan Air Force bombings. Sri Lankan government severely limits medicine and medical personnel going to treat injured civilian in hospitals near the war zone. International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is the only relief agency allowed to help the civilians in war zone; all other agencies are prohibited from the area. There is shortage of drugs, bandages, gauze, anesthetics, blood bags and other medical supplies needed to treat the injured. Doctors tear up bed sheets to bind the wounds and use palm sticks to support fractures. Injured civilians lie in the open under tarpaulins with drips suspended from tree branches. Surgeries are conducted without anesthetics; amputations are performed without anesthetics. Such is the dire situation of Tamil civilians injured in the war. (All this information could be verified from website of international humanitarian agencies and western media.)

2. India Sends Medicine to Sri Lankan Soldiers Surreptitiously

Sixty million Tamils live in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. They are of the same ethnicity of Sri Lankan Tamils who are going through such sufferings in the ethnic war. People of Tamilnadu contributed over 50 crore Rupees (500 million Rupees) to buy and send food, medicine and other essential supplies to war-affected Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka. As of this writing, much of the money is still sitting in Indian banks awaiting permission from the Indian and Sri Lankan governments. Some food, utensils and clothes were purchased and sent from the 50 crore Rupees but published list of items do not include drugs or medical supplies. Tamilnadu would need Indian and Sri Lankan government permission to send food or drugs.

All of a sudden, around February 4, 2009, Indian government announced that it was sending 85 lakh Rupees (8.5 million Rupees) worth of medicine to Sri Lankan government. Why was India sending this 8.5 million Rupees worth of medicine from its own funds while some 250 to 300 million Rupees from Tamil Nadu was still sitting in bank accounts? There is a reason. Tamilnadu insisted that its funds should go to Tamil civilians through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) or other established humanitarian groups and should not be handed over to the Sri Lankan government. On the contrary India handed over the 85 million Rupees of drugs to the Sri Lankan government. Would the Sri Lankan government use some or all of the drugs to treat wounded soldiers or innocent civilians shelled and bombed by Sri Lankan military? There is no openness. There is no transparency in where the drugs would go.

Answer as to where the Indian drugs go came unexpectedly from the Sri Lankan government around February 19, 2009. Questioned by members of parliament about injured soldiers suffering because of shortage of post-surgery pain killer drug peathadine, Sri Lankan Health Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva replied that the government had difficulty getting the drug from western countries but the Indian government would provide this much needed  medicine. India kept its supply of drugs to Sri Lankan army a secret; it only announced that it was sending medicine to Tamil civilians. We do not know the extent of medical supplies India was giving the Sri Lankan army even as injured Tamil civilians go through untold sufferings due to medical shortage. India's dealings with Sri Lanka are shrouded in secrecy, hidden even from central government cabinet ministers from Tamilnadu. (This is what Tamil Nadu chief minister and president of the Tamil Nadu political party Dravida Munnertra Kazhagam (DMK) said on January 30, 2009; his party has several cabinet ministers in the central government and he said that these ministers are not privy to India's assistance to Sri Lankan military.)

3. Are Indian Rulers Deaf to Tamil Sufferings?

This writer is not opposed to India providing the powerful pain killer peathadine to Sinhala soldiers in post-surgery pain. Many of the soldiers in the Sri Lankan army, as opposed to senior officers, come from poor Sinhala families; they enroll in the army because there is no other employment. We understand their pain. We have as much sympathy for them as for the injured Tamil civilians. We would not complain if at least half of the much needed pain killer drug peathadine went to Tamil civilians  (there is no record of civilian hospitals near war zone getting peathadine). Instead all of it went to Sri Lankan soldiers. Tamil civilians including children have their legs or arms amputated without anesthetics or painkillers, yet the Indian government looks the other way and sends painkillers to Sri Lankan soldiers. In the eyes of northern Hindi-belt Indian rulers, are Sri Lankan Tamils who were originally centuries ago from southern India sub-humans compared to Sinhala soldiers whose ancestors migrated from northern India? 

This kind of callous attitude towards Tamils pervades Indian government actions. When scores of Tamils were murdered and raped during the 1991 riots in the Indian state of Karnataka, Indian government refused to send army or central paramilitary forces to stop it [Reference 1]. Yet when a few people from the Hindi state of Uttar Pradesh were killed by nearby Sikh rebels in the 1990s, Indian army was rushed there. See the difference.

Fishermen from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu were being shot and killed by Sri Lankan navy, and India would not even launch a formal diplomatic protest. After so much pressure from Tamil Nadu, and after well over a decade of killings totaling into the hundreds [Reference 2], India called the Sri Lankan diplomat in New Delhi to the External Affairs Ministry and registered a formal protest. In contrast, within days after the killing of a single northern fisherman by Pakistani Navy, Pakistani diplomat was called to the external affairs ministry and a formal protest was registered. Compare and contrast. India protests only after hundreds of killings and over a few dozen calls and letters from Tamil Nadu State chief ministers. One killing in the north, diplomatic protest within days. Are Indian rulers deaf to Tamil sufferings? Are Tamil people second-rate citizens within the Indian Union?

REFERENCES

1. Cauvery River Water Dispute and Karnataka Massacres: Part 1 (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, February 1998 (22 KB)

2. How Many Indian Tamilnadu Fishermen did Sri Lankan Navy Kill? (by Usha Ramanathan), TAMIL TRIBUNE, May 2009 (6 KB)

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